Afghan UN mission concerned over attacks on healthcare workers

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed concerns over the recent attacks on healthcare personnel and facilities, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new special report released by the UNAMA on Sunday presented the findings of its monitoring of all incidents of the armed conflict affecting healthcare from March 11, the date on which the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, to May 23, the start of a three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government, reports Xinhua news agency.

“At a time when an urgent humanitarian response was required to protect every life in Afghanistan, both the Taliban and Afghan national security forces carried out deliberate acts of violence that undermined healthcare operations,” Deborah Lyons, special UN envoy and head of UN mission, was quoted in a UNAMA statement as saying.

“There is no excuse for such actions; the safety and well-being of the civilian population must be a priority,” Lyons said.

The report documented 15 incidents affecting healthcare provision during the period of time, where 12 were deliberate attacks and the remaining incidents involved incidental harm.

“Most of these healthcare-related incidents – eight of the targeted attacks and two of the incidents with incidental harm – were attributed to the Taliban,” the statement said.

The report emphasized that deliberate acts of violence against healthcare facilities, including hospitals and related personnel, are prohibited under international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes.

The UN condemns all deliberate attacks, threats, abductions and other intentional acts against healthcare facilities and personnel, as outlined in the report, the statement added.

Sunday’s report comes after the global medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on June 15 that it was withdrawing from a maternity hospital in Kabul that came under a brutal attack in May in which 25 people were killed.

Three gunmen detonated a bomb and opened fire near the MSF-supported maternity facility located in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood, mainly inhabited by the Hazaras, a minority Shia Muslim community.

With almost 16,000 deliveries in 2019, the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity wing was one of MSF’s biggest such projects worldwide.

More than 70 MSF staff and patients in MSF healthcare programs have been killed in Afghanistan over the past 16 years.

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